Paul Boisvert: It’s about respect
October 17, 2017
In our current divisive sociopolitical environment, it seems that it is as important to solve the challenge of how we work together as it is to solve the actual problems we face. I commend Don Rogers for his insightful essay on political discourse where he urged civility and respect for one another and to really listen more than we talk.
I would like to add that there are a couple specific and recurring ways where we justify our lack of civility and respect. One device is to discount the validity of the other person's perspective. The other is to denigrate the other person or group. Unfortunately, there are regular instances in The Union where columnists use these tactics in their opinions.
For example, Terry McLaughlin has used both of these tactics in recent writings. In one essay, she likened the Indivisible Movement to Angela Davis (of 50 years ago!), who was arrested on conspiracy charges for involvement in the 1960s anti-war movement. McLaughlin failed to mention that Davis was acquitted, which leaves the reader with the idea that Indivisible is a similar conspiracy thereby denigrating that group. I could see no other benefit to making the comparison.
More recently, McLaughlin wrote a mostly excellent opinion on Congress' need to take action on DACA. Regrettably, she also discounted the opinion of a California Assemblywoman, who called Trump's repeal of DACA "vicious" and "cruel." Granted, this was not respectful or productive on the politician's part, but McLaughlin then displayed her own disrespect by calling the Assemblywoman's statement "manufactured outrage." That allows her to ignore the Assemblywoman's comment — rather than delving into the reason behind what was expressed — and it permits the reader to ignore it as well.
I agree with Don Rogers that we need to show respect in political discourse. I hope that I have done so in this writing.
I have attempted to only point out what I observed without denigrating or discounting the author. I might suggest that, as the publisher, Rogers can select columnists whose essays display the respect he encourages in his editorial — or could provide them with a workshop on respectful communication techniques.
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Paul Boisvert lives in Grass Valley.
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